Degradation of ecosystems and the resulting species extinction happens as a result of the activities contributing directly to climate change such as mining, deforestation and pollution; but, also, from the damaging secondary effects of these activities, including biome destabilisation, ocean acidity, and natural disasters (1,2). As a result of these effects, a recent Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report concludes that global biodiversity is declining faster than at any point in recorded history (3). The most effective way to combat the loss of these habitats is through governmental policy at all levels which focuses on enhancing ‘protected areas’, to achieve long-term conservation of our ecosystems (4,5). Recently, scientists have begun discussing a 'Global Deal for Nature'- an ambitious plan to greatly increase the amount of conserved land on Earth (5,6). This proposal, outlined in detail by a new study in Science Advances, calls for half of all lands on Earth to be designated as “protected lands” with a minimum of 30% needed to maintain a stable environment (5). These conservation efforts will help to preserve the natural world, as combating emissions by increasing forested area. Moreover, biodiversity and the natural environment are important to the economies and physical health of human beings (3,7).
As of August 2019, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has stated that Canada is currently protecting 13.81% of its marine and coastal areas (8), while 12.1% of terrestrial land in Canada is considered protected (9). A 2019 Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) report on Canada's ecosystems argued in favour of the Global Deal for Nature in Canada - as a country with a vast amount of land, the report asserts that we should be world leaders in land conservation (6). This report also outlines the need for Indigenous-led proactive planning, specifically in northern regions, where traditional knowledge of the ecosystems is abundant and fundamental to ensuring the effectiveness of the protected lands (6).
An example of conservation at work in Canada is the North Atlantic right whale.Populations of these whales decreased exponentially during the time of whaling; and, sadly, they continue to be killed each year due to entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with ships (10). With less than 500 members of the species remaining, they are classified as endangered by the Species at Risk Act. However, their at risk status has sparked many efforts among marine scientists to restore populations. One solution was to track whale locations, and reroute or slow down shipping lanes to try to avoid fatal collisions (10). Strikingly, in the Bay of Fundy this has reduced the risk of whale deaths by up to 90% (10).
It is evident that more effort needs to be put into conservation. By adhering to and advocating for existing facts-based, science-led measures, we can readily meet the ambitious conservation standards needed to maintain the stability of our environment.